Monday, March 24, 1712. Steele
Voluisti in suo Genere, unumquemque nostrum quasi quendam esse Roscium, dixistique non tam ea quae recta essent probari, quam quae prava sunt fastidiis adhaerescere.
Cicero de Gestu.
It is very natural to take for our whole Lives a light Impression of a thing which at first fell into Contempt with us for want of Consideration. The real Use of a certain Qualification (which the wiser Part of Mankind look upon as at best an indifferent thing, and generally a frivolous Circumstance) shews the ill Consequence of such Prepossessions. What I mean, is the Art, Skill, Accomplishment, or whatever you will call it, of Dancing. I knew a Gentleman of great Abilities, who bewail’d the Want of this Part of his Education to the End of a very honourable Life. He observ’d that there was not occasion for the common Use of great Talents; that they are but seldom in Demand; and that these very great Talents were often render’d useless to a Man for want of small Attainments. A good Mein (a becoming Motion, Gesture and Aspect) is natural to some Men; but even these would be highly more graceful in their Carriage, if what they do from the Force of Nature were confirm’d and heightned from the Force of Reason. To one who has not at all considered it, to mention the Force of Reason on such a Subject, will appear fantastical; but when you have a little attended to it, an Assembly of Men will have quite another View: and they will tell you, it is evident from plain and infallible Rules, why this Man with those beautiful Features, and well fashion’d Person, is not so agreeable as he who sits by him without any of those Advantages. When we read, we do it without any exerted Act of Memory that presents the Shape of the Letters; but Habit makes us do it mechanically, without staying, like Children, to recollect and join those Letters. A Man who has not had the Regard of his Gesture in any part of his Education, will find himself unable to act with Freedom before new Company, as a Child that is but now learning would be to read without Hesitation. It is for the Advancement of the Pleasure we receive in being agreeable to each other in ordinary Life, that one would wish Dancing were generally understood as conducive as it really is to a proper Deportment in Matters that appear the most remote from it. A Man of Learning and Sense is distinguished from others as he is such, tho he never runs upon Points too difficult for the rest of the World; in like Manner the reaching out of the Arm, and the most ordinary Motion, discovers whether a Man ever learnt to know what is the true Harmony and Composure of his Limbs and Countenance. Whoever has seen Booth in the Character of Pyrrhus, march to his Throne to receive Orestes, is convinced that majestick and great Conceptions are expressed in the very Step; but perhaps, tho no other Man could perform that Incident as well as he does, he himself would do it with a yet greater Elevation were he a Dancer. This is so dangerous a Subject to treat with Gravity, that I shall not at present enter into it any further; but the Author of the following Letter  has treated it in the Essay he speaks of in such a Manner, that I am beholden to him for a Resolution, that I will never hereafter think meanly of any thing, till I have heard what they who have another Opinion of it have to say in its Defence.
Since there are scarce any of the Arts or Sciences that have not been recommended to the World by the Pens of some of the Professors, Masters, or Lovers of them, whereby the Usefulness, Excellence, and Benefit arising from them, both as to the Speculative and practical Part, have been made publick, to the great Advantage and Improvement of such Arts and Sciences; why should Dancing, an Art celebrated by the Ancients in so extraordinary a Manner, be totally neglected by the Moderns, and left destitute of any Pen to recommend its various Excellencies and substantial Merit to Mankind?